Pennsylvania (NBC) (12/31/20)— A hunter was charged with homicide in the death of an 18-year-old boy who was shot and killed in his car while watching the sunset at a Pennsylvania state park.
Kenneth Troy Heller, age 52, is facing charges of criminal homicide, recklessly endangering another person and failing to render aid to a person injured by a hunter, according to court records. Heller allegedly walked away after shooting 18-year-old Jason Kutt in October, who was sitting at a lake in Nockamixon State Park with his girlfriend, Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said.
Prosecutors agreed to a deal with Heller, who was sent to jail following his preliminary arraignment Wednesday. Kutt’s parents were consulted in the decision, according to Weintraub.
“Jason’s family gets to know exactly what happened to him,” Weintraub said. “They will not like it but they can have some finality in the knowledge of what happened to Jason. They get finality in the criminal justice system.”
Weintraub did not explain the details of Heller’s deal but said that Heller has agreed to plead guilty to all the charges against him at his formal arraignment in April. Sentencing will be determined by a judge following a plea, with a maximum of up to 20 years in state prison.
“Clearly this isn’t a perfect ending, perfect would mean we have Jason back,” Weintraub said. “That’s just not how real life works.”
Kutt’s girlfriend told investigators in October that she saw a man in an orange vest and hunting-type clothes by a gate after Kutt was shot.
Investigators narrowed suspects down to Heller based on vehicles seen entering and leaving the park at the time of Kutt’s death, and Heller was in fact that hunter seen by Kutt’s girlfriend, Weintraub said. Authorities also received a tip that the investigation should focus on Heller.
Hunting is allowed in the park and was permitted the day Kutt was shot, which occurred during deer season in Pennsylvania. The state department of conservation and natural resources warns hunters to use extreme caution at all times, because other people use state parks during hunting season.
“I do not believe that it was Mr. Heller’s intent to shoot to kill Jason Kutt,” Weintraub said. “He never knew the man, they had no animus, this wasn’t a ‘Hey, I’m going to try it out and see what’s it’s like to be a killer’ moment for Mr. Heller. He has expressed remorse.”
Heller was also charged with possession of an instrument of crime, possession of a prohibited offensive weapon, violating a state hunting law against causing harm to others. An attorney for Heller did not immediately respond to a request for comment for NBC News.
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